In February, I wrote about how a judge allowed The Associated Press' "hot news" lawsuit against an online news service to move ahead. I also wrote up a bit of the history of the "hot news" doctrine, which was created to give news organizations a "quasi-property" right in certain facts, even though facts cannot be copyrighted.
Readers who were interested in that post, and there were quite a few, would be interested to know that cyberlaw guru Eric Goldman has written recently about two more cases that involved "hot news" claims; that's three times it's come up in one month, leading Goldman to conclude that it must be "something in the water." One of those "hot news" claims was against celebrity gossip writer Perez Hilton, while another was part of a newspaper-on-newspaper fight in Pennsylvania over obituaries.
In one way, it's hard to think of anything less "hot" than an obit, but as the judge in that case notes, they do contain certain time-sensitive information. I can confirm, without any joy in my heart, that obits and funeral notices are some of the more popular content in smaller newspapers. When I worked at The Bakersfield Californian as an intern reporter, the funeral notices for the week frequently made it on to the "most read stories" list on the paper's web site. The "hotness" of that feature was always a bit depressing to us reporters, who spent the day pounding pavement to report news that was only occasionally more popular than a list of people have recently died.
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